Also known as PLS, primary lateral sclerosis is a degenerative disease of the upper motor neurons. While it is part of the family of motor neuron diseases it is non-fatal and will lead to paralysis in the worst of cases. If you or someone that you know has recently been diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis then read on for more information about the disease, how it can be treated and what impact it can have upon a person’s life.
Primary lateral sclerosis begins when the nerve cells in the upper motor neurons degenerate. This causes them to die and as a result they cannot continue to control muscles as well as they used to. Of course, this particular disease only affects the muscles of the area where the upper motor neurons control which is why some forms of motor neuron diseases lead to respiratory problems and death whereas PLS does not. Early signs of primary lateral sclerosis are usually in the legs, involving balance and the control of leg movements, but the disease may also manifest in difficulties with speech or difficulties in using the hands properly. People with PLS often come across as clumsy or unsteady at first, or even drunk if they slur their words as well. Later symptoms can include poor balance, involuntary spasms, difficulty walking, talking, performing simple tasks with the hands and dragging of the feet.
While it is uncommon for anyone under the age of 50 to develop primary lateral sclerosis, it can occur in children and is simply termed ‘juvenile PLS’. Often people with primary lateral sclerosis will go on to lead relatively normal lives past diagnosis although as it progresses they may find they need to use wheelchairs and walking aids.
Unfortunately for sufferers of primary lateral sclerosis, the state of treatment so far is solely symptomatic. That is, only the symptoms of the disease can be treated as opposed to the cause of the disease itself. This means that the severity of symptoms will progress, but with medications to ease them this will not be as bad as it would be if medication was not available. Anti-spasmodic drugs will be prescribed to those suffering from involuntary muscle movements and other medications are used to reduce muscle pain. Different types of therapy are a very popular form of treatment for patients with primary lateral sclerosis and many find they benefit from speech therapy if their tongue and facial muscles are affected. Thankfully there is a lot of research being carried out into the root cause of this disease and how exactly it can be prevented, or in the worst case cured.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis then it’s important to talk to your doctor or specialist about every avenue of care. Even if you have a strong care system set up you may benefit greatly from meeting others suffering from the same disease or similar and interacting with people who know how you feel on a day-to-day basis.